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The True Power of Suggestive Selling

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

When I say suggestive selling, what is the first thing that springs to mind?

It's okay - we are all thinking it.

"Would you like fries with that?" says the associate with the plastic name tag.

All kidding aside, suggestive selling is so much more than that.

We are all looking for the best ways to grow our organizations.  That usually means increasing sales and building business.  When we look at those organizations that thrive in the marketplace, there several ways to do that:

New Sales: They cultivate new leads or bring in new customers.

Retained Sales: They protect their current market share, build loyalty, and successfully cultivate repeat business.

Incremental Sales: They find ways to get their current customers to spend more in a way that organically grows their market share.

For the most part, delivering great customer service is a key part of retaining/renewing sales and also winning new sales.  The bucket that many neglect is the idea of growing incremental sales through suggestive selling.  The problem folks run into when they think about suggestive selling is that they focus on the end result.  Absolutely the goal with suggestive selling is to slip a few extra bucks in the till during the course of a transaction - and if you repeat that model over and over again, that will lead to significant increases in revenue.  That said, there is more to the story than just growing sales. Suggestive selling is also about anticipating guest needs and making suggestions that will help them have a complete experience. This can happen over a cash register, online, via mobile, and even with self ordering kiosks.

The best part about suggestive selling is that it is scalable to any size organization.

Suggestive Selling (v): The process of offering customers additional options to compliment their purchases. This could be designed to increase ticket average or sales, as well ensuring that customers seamlessly have what they need to meet their expectations.

Let's talk about a couple of best-in-class organizations that do a fantastic job of consistently delivering excellence in suggestive selling:

Amazon:  They keep guests at the center of their thinking to be sure they can easily make complementary suggestions. We've all added more to our cart when we saw what others bought when they purchased similar items to ours.

Chick-fil-A (or many quick service restaurants):  They script the service experience at the point of sale to ensure suggestions that create a complete meal or experience. But while they often hook me on a lemonade, they also suggest items that I need but that doesn't necessarily grow their revenue. For example, they never let me forget sauce for my nuggets. I appreciate both of these suggestions when I sit down to enjoy my meal.

Walt Disney World: They think about what guests will need next with empathy in mind. They see things from the point of view of those they serve and make sure they are cared for. They anticipate things such as guests forgetting where they parked, so they keep a log of when each section of the lots are opened to help guests find their cars. I was recently thankful for this when I visited their Animal Kingdom park a few weeks ago.

So what is the secret to successful, sustained suggestive selling?

  1. Think About What Guests Needs: At each point of the service journey keep their needs in mind and consider what they will need next. This will mean taking the guest journey yourself and asking the question "what will customers need next to be successful" at each key service moment.

  2. Make Sure There is a Script For Your Team: This should be a sort of decision tree that allows your team to see how to craft experiences for your customers. Make sure they role play, understand the key moves, and then toss the script out. Their authenticity is the key once they understand the principles.

  3. Make it Fun Through Contests and Rewards: If you sell live to consumer, make it fun for your team. If you have an item or items that you want your team to prioritize then make it into a friendly competition with a prize involved. The power of a trophy or bragging rights is a powerful thing. Just be sure that what you prioritize is something that your guests truly need - pushing off add on items or warranties that have no value just to grow your check average will backfire in the long run.

  4. Be Mindful of Guest's Time: Remember that each time you look to suggest an item to a customer it adds time to the transaction. You can't hit up every customer for everything or you'll find that transactions take far too long to complete. If this occurs online you could find yourself in a situation where customers abandon their carts prior to completing their order. Keep it simple and keep it fast.

The point of every suggestion you make should be to make your customer's lives easier.

When you take this point of view it not only helps you craft offers that are better received but inspires your team to anticipate what guests will need next to be happy.

Thanks for keeping your guests top of mind and center stage.


Tony Johnson, CCXP Customer Experience (CX) Leader | Author | Speaker

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